Archive for Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Editorial: AG issue

Is it reasonable to allocate state funds to hire outside attorneys to defend the state against legal challenges that haven’t yet been launched?

May 1, 2013


The Kansas attorney general has gone to the Legislature with a large tin cup, asking for another $1.2 million to defend potential legal challenges to laws enacted this year.

The attorney general is one of four constitutional officers in Kansas. The others are the governor, the lieutenant governor and the secretary of state. The constitution provides that each “shall have such qualifications as are provided by law.” Guess what? No qualifications are provided by law for the attorney general. That’s right. Although the AG is the state’s chief legal and law enforcement official, and is responsible for consumer protection, helping crime victims, defending the state in civil lawsuits, giving legal counsel to state agencies and boards, and generally making sure state government operations conform to the constitution and statutes, apparently anybody can hold the office.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt is an attorney, a graduate of Georgetown University School of Law, but he apparently is concerned about the ability of his staff attorneys to handle all the work they expect to come their way, so Kansas’ chief legal official is asking $1.2 million to hire outside lawyers.

No lawsuits have been filed yet challenging the laws in question. (They include a wide-ranging anti-abortion measure that says life begins “at fertilization” and a pro-gun measure that makes it a felony for a federal agent to attempt to regulate firearms, ammunition and accessories manufactured, sold and kept only in Kansas. Other potential targets are a law that will require drug-testing for some public assistance recipients and one prohibiting public employee unions from automatically deducting money from members’ paychecks to finance political activities.)

The AG’s office is asking for $500,000 to defend the anti-abortion law. The office already has spent $759,000 on outside attorneys defending previously enacted abortion laws. It’s also asking for $225,000 to defend the gun law, and for $250,000 each to stand up for the paycheck deduction law and the drug-testing law.

Critics of the measures noted that warnings about expensive legal challenges were raised during hearings on the legislation.

If these challenges can’t be handled by the AG’s staff, perhaps at least it would be prudent to wait and seek a supplemental appropriation if and when lawsuits are filed. Maybe by then it will be clear where that money might come from. Revenue figures released last week show that the state will receive $5.454 billion in tax revenue for the fiscal year that starts July 1 — a decrease of $745 million from the estimated $6.199 billion in revenue during the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The AG’s $1.2 million request is a relative drop in the bucket compared with the $745 million funding gap, but it’s still discouraging to see state dollars being requested to hire outside attorneys to defend legal challenges the AG’s office warned certain legislative actions would face, and perhaps fail. What’s next?


oldexbeat 5 years ago

Clearly, Derek has friends that need work. It is slush money for poor lawyers. I mean, what with no taxes on LLCs, this is the only path to get more money from the government for attorneys. Go Bar Team, Go....

Michael LoBurgio 5 years ago

Federal judges order Kan. to pay $389K in fees

expenses to attorneys in redistricting lawsuit

Three federal judges on Tuesday ordered Kansas to cover $389,000 worth of attorneys' fees and expenses for individuals involved in a lawsuit last year that stemmed from the Legislature's inability to redraw political boundaries to ensure equal representation.

The three-judge panel ruled that 15 legislators, business leaders and voters achieved enough of their goals in the redistricting lawsuit to warrant having at least part of their attorneys' fees and expenses covered. The court said those individuals had wanted the state to cover about $671,000 in bills, while the state had sought to have them bear almost all the expense themselves.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 5 years ago

Does this guy do anything? Anything? He farmed out previous legal challenges, he wants to farm these challenges out and the Cap-Journal had some stories that he's under fire for not getting the job done on conceal and carry permits. What is his office actually doing and why do we need him if he has to farm everything out and fails to do the tasks he does take on? Time for a change.

oldbaldguy 5 years ago

great way to reward campaign contributions to big law firms in Wichita, Topeka and KC. The AG's office used to have experienced trial attorneys on staff.

buffalo63 5 years ago

This is part of the failed Kansas Conservative Lab experiment! Yes, I know this doesn't add any facts to the discussion, but just my feelings and I'd like to share!

Bob Forer 5 years ago

If they don't have sufficient staff, then they should hire a couple of top flight recent law school graduates for 75K a year each. The big firms that Schmidt anticipates hiring charge hundreds of dollars per hour. There is nothing especially complicated about these potential cases. A bright, recent law graduate can handle the issues.

As previous posters have pointed out, this is nothing more than Schmidt paying back a debt to the big law firms who made campaign contributions of thousands of dollars to republican candidates. Its a payoff, and it stinks to high heaven.

somebodynew 5 years ago

What is bad is that this has been gong on since he got in power - it was just not publicly discussed. The problem now is, despite the warnings, the legislature went ahead with these laws. And, the AG is smart enough to know with the current finance situation this Administration has gotten us into, there will not be any money for when the law suits are actually filed. If he doesn't get it now, there won't be any.

Bob Forer 5 years ago

Why does he need money to fight the lawsuits. He has a large staff of competent attorneys who are are already on the State payroll. l.

Jefferson_County 5 years ago

That's a broad statement. Perhaps you can enlighten all of us on a) the number of attorneys on his staff, and b) their current caseload. Please tell us what they do all day long. It is very easy to put down non-partisan state employees that are already being paid less than the private sector and are operating under budget cuts because of the current tax policy in this state, so please enlighten us as to their daily routine.

oldbaldguy 5 years ago

AG staff is busy. The ones I have gone up against in court are bright, civil and competent.

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